The Miami Heat will face off with the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Miami has had a consistently strong season despite losing All Star Chris Bosh at the All Star Break. The Hornets are one of the up and coming young teams in the league and will give the veteran Heat team all they can handle.
Point Guard- Goran Dragic vs. Kemba Walker
This is a great matchup of similar styles of up-tempo point guards with strong perimeter games. Dragic initially struggled with Miami as they played at a slower pace than he was used to and he was in the midst of making the adjustment. However since Bosh has been out of the lineup the Heat have altered their style of play to a faster pace, which has greatly benefitted Dragic. Walker has taken a big step in his overall play this season and has worked his was into the top 10 point guards in the league. He will have the ball in his hands often and has never been afraid to take the big shot.
Shooting Guard- Dwayne Wade vs. Courtney Lee
Wade had his healthiest season in years and it shows in his teams play. Age has slowed him down a step but he remains one of the top players in the league and a legit threat down the stretch of any game he is in. Lee is the starter and does have the ability to score in bunches. The Hornets have often paired Walker with Jeremy Lin down the stretch of games giving them two scoring guards.
Small Forward- Joe Johnson vs. Nicholas Batum
Johnson was signed after receiving a buyout from the Nets. He has essentially replaced Bosh in the starting lineup and fits in well in the team offensive sets. He plays off the ball more than he ever has in his career and is a playoff veteran who has made countless big shots in his career. Batum is a versatile defender and three point specialist. If the Hornets elect to match up with the Heat smaller lineup Batum may play some power forward or even center in some lineups.
Power Forward- Luol Deng vs. Marvin Williams
Deng has made a seamless transition to the power forward position and may have found a new position that will lengthen his career. He has the size to defend bigger players and the ball handling ability to take advantage of bigger defenders on the wing when he has the ball. Williams has had the best season of his relatively disappointing career. His improved outside shot have helped expand his game.
Center- Amare Stoudemire vs. Cody Zeller
Stoudemire has been the starter but Hassan Whiteside who is one of the top centers in the game has played the majority of the minutes. He is a shot blocking and offensive rebounding machine who is a n upcoming free agent looking to prove he is worth a max contract. Zeller is a tough player who operates a lot out of the high post. The Hornets also have veteran Al Jefferson who has had a rough season injury wise but is a proven veteran scorer capable of putting points on the board.
Lin, Jefferson, and Frank Kaminsky give the Hornets a strong 8 man rotation. The Heat will use Whiteside and rookie Justise Winslow consistently and then match up with other teams accordingly.
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